Bubble match restrictions can be best described as using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.
Bubble matches are games where no independent transport is allowed. This means supporters can’t drive to the match or use public transport but must use official club transport which departs from designated points. These matches place huge restrictions on an individual’s freedom of movement and can cause massive problems for fans travelling from areas other than the town or city of the club they support.
This is about more than travel logistics though, it’s about a decision which effectively labels every travelling fan a potentially violent hooligan.
There’s no disputing that disorder has taken place surrounding the Wrexham versus Chester match in the past. However, the vast majority of those arrested were people who hadn’t even been to the match. Yes, those guilty of criminal acts should be charged and prosecuted, that’s not in dispute. But violence at football is incredibly rare and fans deserve to be treated on their actions rather than reputations.
Last season's Derby at The Racecourse saw 233 police officers used for the fixture. With an attendance of 6,037, that means that there was one police officer for every 25 fans at a game played in the fifth division of English football. The return derby at The Deva saw a total of 230 police officers to police a crowd of 4,326 which meant that there was one police officer for every 19 fans in attendance at a cost of £38,830 to the tax payer.
Wrexham fans had to leave at 10.00am for the away fixture which didn't kick-off until 12.00pm and is just 13 miles down the road, women and children were unable to use the toilet for a duration of nearly two hours and were forced to urinate in bottles and cups which is absolutely disgraceful in this day and age. When Wrexham fans finally arrived at The Deva, they were subjected to body searches and then had to endure a long wait to enter the ground as there was only one turnstile in operation for nearly 1,200 fans.
One Wrexham supporter wrote the following on a fan's forum “I live a mile from their ground (Chester) so I'll have to drive in the opposite direction and over to Wrecsam only to come back and repeat the process after the game”.
Another Wrexham fan wrote on Facebook “A Monday night after work is not ideal but I guess it depends what time the buses leave as by the time I'm home and showered, it's 6.30 then I need food then go to my local pick up point. Not looking good tbh”.
The cross-border derby can produce a fantastic, white hot atmosphere, but rivalry and hatred don’t have to go hand-in-hand. Traditional rivals are now standing together to say no to bubble matches. Moving beyond the cross-border Derby, bubble matches are an issue that should matter to all fans. Their use must not become commonplace. That’s why it’s so important fans put rivalries aside and stand shoulder-to-shoulder.
Police forces up and down the country have been able to police high-profile derby matches for years, including most recently the first Welsh derby in the Premier League, Cardiff v Swansea at 4:00pm. Arsenal v Tottenham at 5:15pm and Manchester City v Manchester United at 8:00pm.
Former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott branded bubble matches the “most draconian travel restrictions since miners’ strike pickets were targeted”.
These restrictions have been put in place without consulting the owners of the two clubs, the time has come for football clubs and football supporters to stand up to these draconian measures. We ask all fans to boycott the match in protest if the bubble match goes ahead.